The Minneapolis City Council met Friday to consider its response to an ethics complaint against Council Member Alondra Cano, stemming from her decision in December to tweet critical messages sent to her office.
Council members gathered behind closed doors for two hours in an unprecedented joint meeting between the council and the city’s Ethical Practices Board — a citizen body that reviews ethics complaints. Cano came under fire last winter for publicly posting critical messages she received through the city’s website over her attendance at a rally at the Mall of America, including the senders’ contact information.
Following the closed session meeting, the council voted to “continue” the matter and dismiss another unrelated complaint. The nature of the complaints, including Cano’s name, were never revealed publicly. The city’s ethics officer, Susan Trammell, declined to elaborate on the nature of the continuance.
“I thought that we had very thoughtful and thorough discussion,” said Cano, who confirmed the meeting was about her. “I learned a lot by hearing my peers’ perspective, which I hadn’t had the chance to hear. It was kind of the first time that I was presented with some of those experiences and feelings.”
The city’s ethical practices board was created in 2003 to review allegations pertaining to violations of the city’s ethics code. Following allegations against an elected official, it must report any sustained findings and disciplinary recommendations to the mayor and City Council.
Trammell said the board and City Council had never met jointly before Friday. She declined to comment when asked if that meant this was the first instance of sustained findings against an elected official.
The board’s findings about Cano have not been released. Under state open records laws, they will not be made public unless the council imposes discipline.
The complaint against Cano dates back to December, when Black Lives Matter held a rally at the Mall of America a few days before Christmas. Several people unhappy with Cano’s involvement sent criticisms through the city’s website, which she then posted publicly on Twitter along with messages affirming her support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
At least one person whose contact information went public, Stephen Dent, filed an ethics complaint. Dent did not return a message seeking comment Friday.
Council members have discretion to release such messages from the public under state law. The city’s ethics code does, however, bar the use of city resources for political activity and says city staff should not be engaged in retaliation or harassment.
Cano would not discuss the specific nature of the findings related to the ethics complaint. She said the council discussion Friday delved into the role of social media in the work of local elected officials.
She said afterward that she relies on social media to bring more transparency to City Hall “in a time where more people want to participate, and where people who have traditionally not participated, including people like me, are participating.”
“What some folks would consider inappropriate or impersonal, I would consider very much timely and engaging and transparent,” Cano said.